Top prospect David Price was chosen as USA TODAY’S Minor League Prospect of the Year on Wednesday, in a vote decided by the staff of USA TODAY and Sports Weekly as well as online voting for fans.
A powerful lefthander, Price went a combined 12-1 in three levels of the Rays Minor League system, with a 2.30 ERA and 109 strikeouts.
Tuesday night marked his final start with the Triple-A Bulls, as the team is currently in the best-of-five Governor’s Cup Finals. Price tossed six innings in the opening game, allowed four runs on seven hits while fanning nine. The Bulls rallied to take the lead with five runs in the 7th inning, but eventually lost, 8-7 to the Yankees Scranton/Wilkes Barre.
With the conclusion of Price’s season, the question remains as to when or if the Rays will call upon the touted lefty to help in their franchise-first pennant race. Although it was widely assumed that the 22-year-old Price would end his season in the Majors, Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman sounded more skeptical when speaking with ESPN’s Peter Gammons on Monday.
According to Gammon’s blog , Friedman wasn’t definite that Price would join the Rays heated American League East battle. “We don’t want people getting ahead of themselves,” Friedman told Gammons. “Anointing [Price] a savior and putting undo pressure on a kid in his first full professional season.”
Price’s teammate in Durham, right-hander Jeff Niemann, could get the nod to join the big league club after his start on Thursday. Niemann (1-0, 1.13) will take the hill against LHP Kei Igawa (1-0, 1.29) for Game 3 of the series, and is coming off an impressive start against Louisville in Round One, in which Niemann took a no-hitter into the eighth inning.
Friedman told Gammons he has been watching the International League playoffs closely and after seeing Niemann throw so well was sure the lanky right-hander would fit into the Rays bullpen sometime this month.
If the success of the last batch of call-ups from Durham is any indication, Tampa Bay will be greatly benefitted by dipping into their farm system again following the Governor’s Cup.
Although Friedman had originally planned to make only two waves of call-ups, early August injuries to Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria coupled with recent setbacks by centerfielder B.J. Upton (strained left quadriceps) and backup catcher Shawn Riggans (bursitis in his right knee) has made more frequent moves necessary.
Despite substantial roster thinning, Durham is making the adjustments and is set to play Game 2 vs. Scranton on Wednesday night with right-hander Mitch Talbot on the hill.
— Brittany Ghiroli
With the trade deadline looming near, the Rays Minor League system continues to hold an enviable stock of high-end prospects.
Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman and the rest of the Rays staff would prefer to solve the team’s current holes — a right-handed power hitter and another reliever — in house, instead of trading for a rental player.
Rocco Baldelli — who has been sidelined since Spring Training with a rare mitochondrial disorder that causes muscle fatigue — could be the powerful right-handed bat the Rays need to upgrade a languishing lineup.
Currently on rehab assignment with Double-A Montgomery, Baldelli has progressed to playing the outfield, and the Rays are cautiously optimistic that the 26-year-old Baldelli can be of service in the Majors.
“It’s possible,” Maddon told the St. Petersburg Times on Thursday. The Rays skipper also told the paper that he had a positive talk with Head Athletic Trainer Ron Porterfield about Baldelli’s health following his three innings in the field on Wednesday.
Baldelli — who went 1-for-3 as the team’s DH on Thursday — is scheduled to play in the Biscuits’ outfield again on Saturday.
In four Major League seasons, Baldelli has a .282 career average with 48 home runs and 221 RBIs.
Another player in the Minors that the team will monitor closely — as they make what would be a franchise-first playoff bid — will be lefty David Price.
The No. 1 Overall Pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, Price is also in Montgomery but the 22-year-old could receive a promotion relatively soon.
With Triple-A Durham losing right-hander Jeremy Cummings to the Olympics, the Bulls will have a rotation spot to fill.
Price — who is 4-0 with a 2.19 ERA in six games — would be the logical choice, as the young lefty has quickly moved up the Rays system after a left elbow strain caused him to miss the season’s initial month.
Top pitching prospects Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson are also options to help the overextended Rays bullpen down the stretch, and are believed to be untradeable pieces within the Rays system.
Davis — who was promoted to Durham last week — tossed seven-innings of scoreless baseball in his Triple-A debut on July 20, after going 9-6 with a 3.85 ERA with Montgomery.
Hellickson has split time between Class-A Vero Beach and Montgomery, and, as of Friday, is a combined 8-4 with a 2.95 ERA in the Minors.
— Brittany Ghiroli